Wherever you get your Human Resources news and insights, you’ll probably have seen an influx of articles and thought pieces on the developing trend of incorporating altruism into the workplace. Driven predominantly by millennial employees, many offices are seeking out partnerships and link ups that allow their workers to volunteer, donate or give back in some other way to charities, social enterprises and the like.

Why is Altruism in the Workplace Important?

Altruism, in both the workplace and in life, promotes our happiness because finding the time to help others boosts how we personally feel. Whether you are helping an elderly relative or a colleague complete an important project, the very act of stepping up and putting yourself forward to make a difference to someone else’s life changes your own. In the workplace, this sort of endeavor is great for morale, as well as retention of promising talent. Researchers using data from an incredible 49 different countries have discovered a direct link between helping someone at work and someone’s happiness levels. Why is this the case? Simply because the motivation someone feels to make a difference, and the belief that it does make a difference, is associated with greater happiness. Furthermore, altruism in the workplace can boost the level of friendships between colleagues. By helping a fellow member of staff complete an important work task, you can build a strong support system within the office, one which will be reciprocated when you, yourself, are in need.

While it’s the most engaged who are leading the pack, there are many ways you can encourage late adopters to this trend, such as those outlined below.

Motivate Employees with Reward Substitution

The benefits of “giving back” are numerous in a professional setting: working together out of the office builds team spirit, strengthens bonds between colleagues and can increase self-worth and motivation.

However, if you’re finding it difficult to get your employees to see the value in voluntary activities, you could consider adopting a reward substitution. This method, as coined by Behavioral Economists, involves providing a motivating benefit that’s more immediate and recognizable versus a longer term, less tangible one. If your employees’ don’t find the idea of giving back that motivating, are there others payoffs you can motivate them with? Chuze Fitness is a gym that has an active altruism approach. You could encourage colleagues to join this fitness community, with the promise of better health and wellbeing, as well as doing a great deal of good in the world.

Allow them to See the Good They are Doing

Often, the missing piece in motivating people to perform voluntary tasks is that they can’t see firsthand the good they are doing.

If you feel this is the case in your workplace, look for opportunities where your employees can be truly exposed to the impact they will create by giving back. There are many activities that allow volunteers to be on the front line, such as working in soup kitchens, providing CV and career advice for the long-term unemployed, cleaning plastic off beaches and shorelines or caring for the elderly and infirm. The closer your staff can be to the beneficiaries of their hard work, the more engaged they will be in the altruistic activity.

Introduce an Element of Healthy Competition

For many, adding an element of friendly rivalry can be galvanizing and perhaps particularly so in a professional setting. There are countless ways you could do so, including a leadership board of most active or those achieving the biggest impact, prizes for outstanding contribution to a local initiative or programme, or separating your employees into teams, with the challenge to outperform each other in whichever way they together choose to give back. Consider what’s most appropriate for your team and its dynamics.

Provide them with an Opportunity to Develop Skills

Giving back needn’t be solely selfless; many opportunities will give participants the chance to develop skills, both professional and personal, that will be of benefit to them. Take a poll internally to see if there are any skills that a majority of your workforce are looking to strengthen, then seek out partnerships with this in mind.

If you can think strategically about your employee engagement, you should see employees’ more inspired to give back very soon indeed.

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